Jun 22, 2009

Ginger Cheesecake with Gingerbread Crust

Every month, at the end of book club, we decide what food we'll bring to next month's meeting. We love to read, but, let's face it, we really love to eat. I immediately grabbed the dessert course, but said that it would have to be cake. No one objected. I wanted to make something from the Mostly Flourless Cakes and Cheesecakes section, and finally settled on the ginger cheesecake.

Of course, this being a Rose Levy Beranbaum concoction, it is a ginger cheesecake unlike any other. It's not made with powdered ginger--it's made with squeezed fresh ginger juice. How do you juice a ginger, you ask? You just grate lots and lots of it, and then squeeze it dry.

It takes a big honking piece of gingerroot to yield three tablespoons of ginger juice, but it's kind of fun to squeeze it out by hand. I put the squeezed-dry ginger in my compost pile, where I'm sure it will add an exotic touch to the compost.
I might as well admit right now that I took a shortcut in this recipe. You can either buy a little package of gingersnaps to make the crust, or you can make your own gingerbread cookies. If you opt for the homemade cookies, you can make tiny gingebread people and press them against the side of the cheesecake for decoration. The picture showing the gingerbread girls and boys looks cunning, I'll admit, but I had to make this cheesecake after work Monday night in order to have it for book club on Tuesday. I had the choice of forgoing the cookies or forgoing sleep. I bought the little package of gingersnaps.
I did not, however, take a shortcut with the cardamom. The recipe suggests cardamom as an optional flavoring that adds an "aromatic floral quality." Not ground cardamom, though. That would be too easy. For this cheesecake, you "remove the husk and fibers from about 6 cardamom pods."

I didn't even know that cardamom came in pods. After you remove the husk and fibers, you have little brown things that look sort of like mouse turds, but I tried not to think about that. And after you grind it, it smells a lot like powdered cardamom. If you were to take another shortcut in this recipe and not actually grind the cardamom, it would probably not cause the world to come to an end.
You absolutely could not substitute anything for the fresh ginger, however. When I tasted the batter, I couldn't believe how delicious it was. I really didn't want to bother to bake it, although I did, because taking a big bowl of cheesecake batter to book club does not seem comme il faut.
The batter goes into a springform pan on which the gingersnap crust has been patted out.

The pan then goes into a hot water bath.

I wish I had been more scrupulous about wrapping the spring-form pan with foil, because there was a little seepage into the cheesecake, and the crust was not quite the consistency I would have liked. But the hot water bath seems to work wonders in preventing the Grand Canyon look that cheesecakes sometimes get.
The cake came out of the oven looking beautiful, and would have remained so if I had not tried to remove the cheesecake from the pan's bottom onto a plate. As I was sliding it ever so carefully (I thought), it sort of broke in two. Undaunted, I shoved the two pieces together and covered the tell-tale crack with a design made from slices of preserved ginger. I thought this was rather clever of me, although it would not have fooled Sherlock Holmes.

Okay, so it wouldn't have fooled a two-year-old. But it just shows that you can often rescue something if you don't insist on perfection. Even if the appearance of this cheesecake wasn't perfect, the texture was nearly so. Although it seems ridiculous to say that something with a pound of cream cheese, 3 cups of sour cream, and 3 eggs can be light, this tasted light and surprisingly refreshing. And the fresh ginger taste was even better in the baked cheesecake than it was in the batter. My dear friend Mary, who is having radiation therapy for a benign tumor of the salivary gland, is at the point of therapy where everything tastes like sawdust. I was happy that she perked up at the cheesecake and said it actually tasted good. I agreed.


Sally: "The ginger taste is subtle, not overwhelming, like ginger sometimes is. Very delicious."

Fran: "Creamy texture--it's firm, but still creamy."

Laurel: "Light and fluffy"

Mary: "Very soothing for someone undergoing radiation therapy."


Anonymous said...

You are so funny, I love your writing style.
That book cannot get here fast enough, every cake you have baked I say will be my first to try.
I did bake the spice cake with the peanut butter frosting, all I can say is YUM!

Rose Levy Beranbaum said...

oh marie! i had to laugh out loud re your comment on the cardamom because i always think the same thing. that's the difference between a blog and a book--editors won't let you get away with comments like that!!!

by the way, ground cardamom is fine as long as it is fresh and not turned to saw dust as happens in those spice jars when left for months and months.

what a treat--i scrolled down and found the tres leches. just the other day i checked the blog--now on my cell phone for easiest acess--and it wasn't there yet. that is truly one of my fav cakes in the book. but as barbara said--i keep saying that--so many favorites.

marie--you deserve a silicone pan to use for cakes in a water bath--that way you don't have to use foil and it's leak proof. you just set the metal pan into the silicone. ask woody where he got his. maybe he has an extra he can loan you! you did a masterful job of repairing the crack--you could be a plastic surgeon!

Melinda said...

I love the crack repair. Very ingenious...kind of Frankencakesque.
I hadn't thought of using the silicone pans for a water bath, it sounds a very good idea! Very clever.
I think I would love this cheesecake.
I love ginger anything. Ginger and chocolate is even better...
I love the smell of ground cardamom.
It reminds me of Finland. They use it a lot in their baked goods.

Patricia @ ButterYum said...

I love your repair job... that's thinking on your feet!!! Cardamom is one of my favorite flavors, so this cheesecake promises to be delish! Nice write up!

jini said...

your suturing skills are terrific! i will definitely bake this one...i love cheese cakes and actually bake them when i'm planning a dinner for guests. i haven't heard of ginger juice, but i've used many kinds of ginger and it's one of my favorite flavorings. your mouse comparison is priceless....you are too funny. rose's suggestion for a silicone pan is great!

Anonymous said...

Hey Marie,

When I checked in and saw, "Ginger Cheesecake with Gingerbread Crust," I knew this would be good. It just SOUNDS good, know what I mean? Terrific job and I love how you (literally)patched up the cake. Good for you for thinking on your feet, clever girl.

Laura NYC

Marie said...

I'm glad that you liked the spice cake & peanut butter cream. I know what you mean--it'd be hard for me to pick my favorite so far, and I've only done six or so.

It can be dangerous when you are your only editor. You have to hope for the inner voice that says maybe you shouldn't really write that down.
I just read the tip about the silicone pan, and I can't wait to try it.
This won't surprise you, but Woody has been extremely generous in offering help, advice, equipment. I tend to be like the two-year-old who says, "I want to do it myself," but he is definitely my go-to guy.

I love Frankencake! That may be an even better name than Cakewrecks. I hope this is the last time I have to stitch up a Frankencake.
I don't believe I've ever heard anyone say that the smell of cardamom reminded them of Finland. You're so worldy.

Nobody does cheesecakes better than Rose. There's also a delicious-sounding pumpkin cheesecake in the book, but I don't think I'll be making that in the middle of summer.

I know--I can't wait to try the silicone pan idea. You'll be surprised at how juicy ginger is.

Laura NYC,
The ginger/gingerbread combination sounds really cozy and homey, doesn't it? Have you read about super-tasters--the people who can taste flavors that other people miss? I think Rose is a super-taster, and the rest of us benefit.

doughadear said...

Taking the extra steps to obtain flavour as in squeezing the juice from ginger instead of using dry add so much to a better tasting end product, I swear I could smell the ginger as I read. Your patch up work was very clever. I love the silicon pan tip.

evil cake lady said...

The silicon pan tip is great!
Even though I love fresh cardamom, I am not a fan of fresh ginger. But I do know that Rose's cheesecake is excellent, and I bet this one is too. Nice suturing job!

Rose Levy Beranbaum said...

marie, given your interesting comment about super taster i just must report that i once saw a test to determine if one is a super taster (in a woman's magazine i spied out of the corner of my eye while on a treadmill). i tried it out--it involved putting a gummed reinforcement on one's tongue and then painting the center with blue food color and then with a magnifier counting the circumveliate papillae (forgive the spelling). if one had more than say 14 it meant one was a super taster. well i stopped counting at 25 because i was getting cross eyed. it took me about 24 hours to realize that quantity is not quality! i regret ever having smoked a single cigarette ever! i quit many times but it wasn't until about 30 years ago that it occurred to me that i was affecting the most important part of my body for my profession. it was the last one i ever smoked.

Marie said...

I'm going to get a silicone pan an inch larger than my springform and try it the next time I make cheesecake, so I'll report on how it works.

Jim dislikes fresh ginger, and he LOVED this cheesecake, so you might be surprised that you would turn out to like it yourself.

Not a surprise that you're a super-super-taster! I also quite smoking about 30 years ago, after many attempts to quit, but the impetus for our final cigarettes (Jim and I always quit at the same time) was a card from Sarah, that said, "Don't smoke--you will croak!"

Patricia @ ButterYum said...

Quick question about the Spice Cake with Peanut Butter Buttercream. What is the room temperature storage time on the buttercream? Thanks so much!

Marie said...

No specific storage times on this recipe, but Rose's guidelines from the front of the book suggest one day at room temp, one week refirgeratoed, and eight months frozen for all buttercreams.

Anonymous said...

I just love the write-ups on your baking , you are so funny! The mouse turds and the sutures on your cheese-cake top just creased me up!! I have never made a baked cheese-cake only the type made with gelatin, I really must try this one.
I made the Spice cake with the Peanut buttercream for the Father's Day challenge on Rose's Forum, it was very good and was enjoyed by all! Made it early because we're off to cyprus tomorrow for a weeks holiday! Jeannette

Marie said...

I looked at the pictures of your cake, and it looks great! I'll have to post another recipe in a few weeks.
I can't believe that you're just casually off to Cyprus for a holiday, as if you're just going to Iowa or Michigan.
Have a wonderful trip!

Anonymous said...

Next time you use a springform pan, draw onto parchment around the bottom of the pan (the insert), and cut it out leaving three or four little "ears" sticking out. When you assemble the pan, put the parchment on top of the insert, fold the ears over so they stick out, and clamp the ring closed. You can pull on the ears gently to straighten the parchment out. Then, when you unpan the cheesecake, you can use the ears and the parchment in general to slide it off the insert without breaking or other problems. Love your blog!

Marie said...

Thanks for the tip! You mean that the cheesecake slides right off the parchment on to a serving platter?

hector said...

oh dear the ginger stitches are a knock out and would do so even if there wasn't a crack. well done!

most 9 inch silicone pans are 9.5 inches and most say so, it fits perfectly a 9" removable bottom pan or spring form pan.

Anonymous said...

You're welcome for the parchment tip! Actually, I just take the parchment along with the cake, so that the parchment is under the cheesecake on the serving platter. No one ever notices, they're all too busy eating cheesecake :)

Marie said...

Very kind of you--especially since it looks like you never need to do an emergency patch job yourself.
I was going to get a round 10-inch silicone pan for cheesecakes, but now I'll just get a 9-inch because it sounds like that will be big enough.

hector said...

Marie, i do patch job ALL THE TIME =)

i think the most common silicone round pans are the 9.5-inch, these really fit VERY WELL on the 9-inch removable bottom pans like the 9x3-deep from Magic Line or Fat Daddio.

I have a 9-inch spring form pan which seemst too wide to fit on the 9.5-inch silicone because of the spring mechanism, but because the pans are silicone, they WILL fit, just a little bulgy. here is a picture, not a problem really.

of course a 10" silicone pan will fit looser and perhaps even easier, but i am happy with my 9.5" since I got it for under $5, SiliconeZone brand, from a local Ross Dress For Less! SiliconeZone is also 100% silicone (no fillers, as you can test by twisting the pans and see if white streaks show)

btw, i let the cheesecake or chocolate oblivion cool completely before removing the silicone pan. silicone cools and heats almost right away, so really there is very little danger of retaining too much heat. in fact, i just leave the silicone pan on, so nothing leaks while the cake is on the fridge!


can hardly wait for your next cake, and remember, don't stare at the wedding cake recipes as those are mines =) except for the cupcake and groom cake =)